- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

COWDEN, Ill. (AP) - Jeanie West lost her granddaughter, Chloe West, almost two years ago to leukemia. The girl was 5.

Now, the grandmother has started her second collection of toys for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“I just want to give back,” said Ms. West, who lives near Cowden. “I know it’s not much, but I know it puts a smile on their face.”

She started collecting toys at the end of January. The response has been overwhelming. She’s already tagged 400 toys with a label that reads “in memory of Chloe West,” and she still has bags of toys in her dining room ready to be tagged.

Ms. West said that her granddaughter would love what is being done for the hospital.

“Any time Chloe was tickled about something, she’d always put her arms by her face and say, ‘Grandma, I’m so excited,’” West said. “And I can see her doing that when I get the gifts.”

When Chloe had to have two bone marrow transplants, she was stuck at the hospital for 100 days. Having the toys at the hospital made those days better.

“She always looked forward to the toys,” Ms. West said. “I know it brightened her up.”

Even though Ms. West hasn’t been to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for almost about two years, she knows from experience that toys are always welcomed.

“Toys go quick,” she said. “I remember going in with Chloe and saying, ‘Well, there’s not much to pick from because toys are low.’”

Ms. West said that Chloe’s mother is now starting to warm up to a toy donation for her daughter, but she wasn’t ready to help last year.

“Last year, it was fresh and too hard on her,” Ms. West said. “I told her about the collection last year, and she said, ‘Jeanie, I cry.’ I said, ‘I do too, but I want to do something to remember her.’”

When a child in the hospital gets a toy, Chloe lives on, the grandmother said.

“The child that gets one of the tagged toys knows there was another going through what they’re going through,” Ms. West said.

Toys can be dropped off in Chloe’s name at Dan Hecht Chevrolet-Toyota, Culvers, and Panda Express in Effingham. In Shelbyville, drop them off at Casey’s General Store and Farm House Restaurant. West said that she would like more gifts for high school age kids.

Source: Effingham Daily News, https://bit.ly/1B6YLD1

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